Sunday, 31 July 2011

Toy Story 2

I went to see Toy Story 2 in the cinema back in the February of 2000. Seems quite bizarre now that it was so long ago – over a decade and only a few weeks into the millennium. The third in the trilogy was a long time coming!

I had started a diary not very long before, but all I jotted down on the 25th of that month was, ‘Saw Toy Story 2 today. It was REALLY good. Best committed to memory again.’

And commit it to memory I did. I haven’t seen it again since, but I still remember the plot pretty well – and I’ve moved past the days of avoiding writing down my thoughts because I can simply remember what happened. At a yard sale, Woody ends up accidentally put on display and is then stolen by a toy collector. He is, it transpires, a valuable collector’s item, and the collector can now sell a complete set of toys based on the TV show Woody’s Roundup for a handsome sum. But Woody is still Andy’s toy, and his friends are determined to rescue him – even if it must be at the last minute inside an airport.

In many ways, the expansion of the cast makes for scenes that write themselves. Woody the cowboy doll was a part of a TV show with other key members – a cowgirl, a horse and a sidekick. Buzz has a nemesis as well – but he is not rare and there are other version of Buzz Lightyear about, with the same mindset he had at the start of the first film. It’s a good way to develop a sequel to a film where there is an odd couple at the centre of the drama – reveal more of their worlds when they are separate from one another. The idea of toy collectors makes for not only obvious story progression but visual jokes (what happens to toys that are mint in the box if they come to life when nobody is looking?) and allows for some interesting questions about whether toys ought to be preserved when what they’re made for is to be played with.

The sequel wasn’t originally intended for a theatrical release. Disney sequels tend to go straight to video, courtesy of Disneytoon, and after all Pixar had never done a sequel before this. The story is that the design work was so impressive, and Tom Hanks and Tim Allen so vehement after signing on again for a small-scale video sequel, that Disney requested Pixar make it into a theatrical feature. Pixar had given the task to a secondary unit, but did not feel the work was of a quality they could be proud of, so reworked it, got Lasseter back as director and made something that was a resounding success.

It is the weakest of the three films, without the pioneering graphical quality and brilliant establishment of the concept the first film can boast, and nor does it have the penetrating emotional high notes of the third film’s theme of growing up and passing on childish things. But the fact that it cannot quite stand up to two such brilliant and successful films is no great slight, as it remains probably the best sequel to an original animated film there has ever been.

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